UPDATED: 3D Without Glasses Is Possible In the Blink Of An Eye

By J. Sperling Reich | January 29, 2011 12:23 am PST

[youtube width=”560″ height=”345″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uef17zOCDb8[/youtube]

Over the past several years as Hollywood began churning out an increasing number of 3D films a single question has been on the minds of both exhibitors and moviegoers. When will it be possible to watch 3D movies without the need to wear glasses?

Whether they use polarized lenses, spectral filters or active shutters, theatre owners would like to do away with the glasses that have become an operational burden and overhead expense. Theatre patrons have mixed feelings about the spectacles, complaining about comfort and low light levels.

But 3D glasses may be a thing of the past according to Francois Vogel. His video demonstration of a new technology that enables 3D content to be viewed without glasses has been a huge hit on YouTube, generating over 4.4 million views since it appeared on the site January 14th. Jonathan Post has developed two diodes that, when placed on one’s temples, stimulates the eyes to blink 120 times per second, alternating between the left and right eye. This mimics the method used by 3D active shutter glasses.

Currently, the system works with 120Hz monitors and Post hopes to commercialize the product over the next year. The topic of 3D glasses is a hot topic among consumers as witnessed by the countless blog posts about the video, including one on Engadget which has received over 700 reader comments. However, if moviegoers think 3D glasses are uncomfortable, I find it hard to believe they will find fluttering eyelids to be a more soothing alternative.

What do you think of Post’s technology and this technique for viewing 3D without glasses? Does it have a future? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Update [January 31, 2011]: I originally held back on posting this video as I thought it had to be a joke.  Particularly, I questioned whether the human eye could blink so quickly without causing flickering for the viewer.  So, I waited a few days and searched all over to find anything that would debunk the video as a hoax.  I couldn’t find anything other than posts about the video on reputable tech websites.

Even after publishing the post I was still skeptical.  So I decided to figure out whether it would be physically possible to blink fast enough for Francois Vogel’s “technology” to work; 60 blinks per second per eye.  All of my research revealed that the average human eye blink takes between 300 to 400 milliseconds.  There are 1,000 milliseconds in a second.  So let’s do some math:

1000 milliseconds / 60 blinks = 16.67 milliseconds

Some of the fastest body movements, like saccades which help the eye focus, can be as short as 20 milliseconds, which is still slower than 16.67 milliseconds.  With the human eye taking 300 milliseconds to blink at it’s fastest, it is more than likely that it could never ramp up to blink in 16.67 milliseconds.  The math doesn’t pencil.

So, while Jonathan Post and Vogel haven’t come out to admit their video is a hoax (at least not that I have seen), I think it’s safe to say that it is.

J. Sperling Reich